Tennessee State to be 1st HBCU with ice hockey

Tennessee State University announced Wednesday it was adding a club men’s hockey team, making it the first historically Black college or university (HBCU) to introduce a college hockey program.

The Nashville-based school said the men’s team will start play as a club program in 2024 and while no timeline was given, TSU said its goal is to eventually field both a Division I men’s and women’s team.

“Bringing ice hockey to Tennessee State University is a part of our continued commitment to provide our students with new opportunities and to broaden new interests in areas where they have traditionally had limited or no access,” TSU president Glenda Glover said in a statement released by the school. “We appreciate our ongoing partnership with the Nashville Predators which has played a pivotal role in our decision to pursue this historic undertaking of starting an ice hockey program at TSU, and the first for a HBCU.”

A preexisting relationship between the Predators and TSU is what laid the foundation for the school partnering with the Preds, the NHL and College Hockey Inc. From there, TSU took part in a feasibility study that was administered by College Hockey Inc., an entity that works to grow the collegiate game.

College Hockey Inc., in conjunction with the NHL and the NHLPA, offers prospective schools a feasibility study to see if they are in a position to potentially add either a men’s or women’s program or in some cases, both.

The study concentrates on the financial impact of adding hockey. It examines if schools can account for adding scholarships internally, how much it would cost an athletic department to add a coaching staff and a support staff along with a conference assessment to determine if a team has realistic options to join a league.

The American Collegiate Hockey Association, which is the national organization for club hockey programs, has seen its former members transition to Division I. That was the case when Arizona State went from having a club team to eventually fielding a men’s program. ASU won two national club titles before it became a Division I program in 2015-16.

During the 2022-23 season, there were 62 active Division I men’s programs compared to the 37 Division I women’s programs. The highest level of women’s hockey is technically called the National Collegiate Division and it includes the 37 Division I teams plus five Division II programs.

TSU said it’s in the process of hiring a director of club hockey operations who will be responsible for fundraising, community partnerships, student-athlete recruitment and managing day-to-day operations.

“Together, we celebrate the power of collaboration as we dismantle barriers, diversify the game, and propel hockey into a new era of inclusivity,” TSU athletic director Mikki Allen said in a statement. “This partnership serves as a catalyst, driving change and ensuring that the game we love embraces the beauty of diversity.”

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